Hello from snowy Virginia! The kids in my district had a grand total of 2 days of school this week, so that has left me with a lot of time on my hands to work on lesson plans. Last week, I told you all about my BIG reading incentive, Read Across America. The situation hasn’t been ideal for this contest so far. Students have missed the first two turn-ins because we weren’t in school on Monday or Thursday. Luckily, I did get to see everyone on Tuesday and Wednesday. I encouraged them to keep reading and recording and let them know that I will calculate the scores for all match-ups once I finally receive their forms. I have also been keeping my website updated so that any parents who are wondering about the contest will know what to do. It looks like temperatures are finally going to start rising, so maybe we can actually kick this thing into high gear next week…here’s hoping!
I want to talk about more than just Read Across America today, however. I have started a new program with my fifth graders and I am pretty excited about it. When the librarians in my county met at the beginning of the school year, the heads of our department told us about Common Sense Media‘s digital citizenship (learning to use the Internet ethically, safely, and effectively) curriculum. They asked all of us to watch an introductory video and to attempt to become Common Sense Education Certified by the end of the school year. I will admit that I wasn’t thrilled at first. I figured it was just another “technology fad” badge to stick on my resume. After I watched the video and explored the site, however, I actually got excited.
According to their website “Common Sense is dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology.” You may have used the site before to find reviews of movies or other media for kids. The education piece was new to me, but I quickly realized that it was a hugely valuable resource for Tibrarians. Common Sense has created an entire curriculum to teach digital citizenship to students in grades K-12. These are not just little throw-away lessons, either. Each lesson is fully explained with a detailed lesson plan, handouts and assessments, extensions, and even resources for parents.
As an elementary school Tibrarian interested in using Common Sense Media’s curriculum, you have two choices. You can have your students work through the “Digital Passport” or you can pick and choose lessons from the scope and sequence to teach yourself. The “Digital Passport” is a more student-led program, where students work through the assignments independently on a computer and in a work packet. Students watch videos and are given scenarios to evaluate during the computer portion and then reflect further in the work packet. This option is really only feasible if you have enough computers at your disposal that every student can have his/her own station. The Technology Resource Teacher at my school is working through the Digital Passport with our fourth grade classes, while I am teaching five lessons to our fifth grade students. We plan to compare notes at the end of our units to see which method worked best.
If you plan to teach lessons, you can either follow the 5-lesson units that Common Sense Media has laid out for each grade level, or you can hand-pick whichever lessons you want to teach to create your own unit that suits your students’ needs. I decided to choose five lessons from the units for grades 3-5 to use with my fifth graders. I wanted to focus on certain aspects of digital citizenship, so I chose the lessons that I thought would best serve my students. I am teaching the following lessons:
Talking Safely Online, Picture Perfect, What’s Cyberbullying?, The Key to Keywords, and How to Cite a Site
In order to prepare for each lesson, I read through the lesson plan, printed out any handouts that I wanted to use, and created a flip chart for use on the Promethean board. Some of the lessons involve showing photographs or graphics, and sharing videos with the students. I decided that bringing all of this media together into a flip chart would make it easier to present the lesson, and it has worked really well so far. There are lots of discussion points posed in each lesson, so I create a new flip chart page for each question or group of questions to help keep our conversations focused. I have found that students have A LOT to say about these topics, so it helps to have the questions there to keep us on track.
I have taught two lessons so far and students have seemed interested and engaged. We are having some great discussions and I feel like they are getting the key messages about digital citizenship that I am trying to convey. I hope that by the end of the school year I am able to call myself a Common Sense Digital Citizenship Certified Educator. Here are the criteria to become one:
- Watch the online curriculum tutorial
- Teach 1 unit (5 lessons) to 1 class/OR Complete 5 modules of the digital passport with one class/OR complete 3 lessons or 3 modules with 2 or more classes
- Do at least 3 of the following: assign homework that includes family participation, put a link to Common Sense on your website, distribute a family tip sheet, facilitate a parent discussion group
- Join one of Common Sense’s professional learning networks
- Inform your colleagues about Common Sense Media
All of the resources at Common Sense Media are completely free! All you have to do is sign up. Please think about exploring the website and seeing what they have to offer. You won’t be disappointed!